Domestic violence is violence or abuse within a domestic setting. Domestic violence may occur when spouses live together, or when 2 people cohabit. Cohabitation is living together without being married. A victim of domestic violence may go to court and ask a judge or magistrate for a domestic violence order of protection. Such an order is designed to prevent further abuse.

Domestic violence protection orders may take the form of emergency protection orders; restraining orders; or protection orders, depending upon the facts and circumstances.

What is an Emergency Protection Order?

Emergency protection orders are short-term orders that provide immediate protection to a victim. Police or judges can issue emergency protection orders to a victim when the abuser is arrested for an act of domestic violence. While an emergency protection order is in place, the victim is given time to request an order with a longer duration.

Emergency protection orders typically last for several days to a week. These orders typically contain “no-contact” provisions. No-contact provisions require that the abuser stay away from, and refrain from communicating with, the victim.

What is a Protection Order?

A protection order is an order that lasts for a longer period of time than an emergency protection does order. Protection orders (sometimes called orders of protection) may last for a year or more, and may be renewed if the victim believes additional protection is needed.

Protection orders may contain the following provisions:

  • A provision enjoining (preventing) the abuser from calling, emailing, texting, or otherwise trying to communicate with the victim.
  • A provision preventing the abuser from stalking, menacing, harassing, disturbing, or making physical contact with the victim.
  • A provision ordering the abuser to stay away from a victim for an amount of yards, feet, or miles (e.g., 300 yards, 500 feet, 1 mile). This provision can order the abuser to stay away from the victim, the victim’s residence, place of employment, automobile, or other place or area where the victim might be present.
  • A provision ordering the abuser to refrain from contacting or visiting the victim’s family members, including children, parents, and roommates.

In some instances, when a court believes that these measures are insufficient, the order can provide for more drastic measures. These measures include:

  • A so-called “move-out” provision, which requires the abuser to move out of the residence they share with the victim.
  • A provision ordering the abuser to attend counseling, therapy, or anger management treatment.
  • A provision requiring the abuser to surrender their firearms to the police.
  • A provision preventing the abuser from purchasing a firearm.

What is a Restraining Order?

A restraining order, like a protective order, restrains an abuser’s ability to contact or be in the same physical space as a victim. The difference between a protective order and a restraining order is that a restraining order is issued as part of an underlying lawsuit.

For example, in a child custody lawsuit, one party may ask the court to prohibit the other party from contacting the child. A court may grant this request if the request is supported by credible evidence. While the order is in effect, the underlying custody lawsuit goes forward.

Just as protective orders can be obtained on an emergency basis, so can restraining orders. An individual who needs immediate protection may contract the judge “ex parte,” which means without the other party’s presence at the hearing. A judge may then award an ex parte restraining order. Due process of law requires that the judge later order a hearing at which the accuser can present their version of the facts.

What is the Penalty for Violation of Protection Orders or Restraining Orders?

If a party violates the terms of a protection order or restraining order, the violation can be punished as contempt of court. Contempt of court is punishable by monetary fines and jail time. The violation may also be punished as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the violation and whether the violation is a repeat one.

How Can Victims Protect Themselves if They Travel to Other States?

When a judge issues an order, the order can be enforced in the state where the order is issued. Under federal law, a protection order issued in one state must be enforced by all 50 states. This means that if an abuser tries to contact or visit a victim in the victim’s new state, the new state must enforce the order issued by the first state.

Do I Need the Help of an Attorney to Obtain a Domestic Violence Protection Order?

If you have been victimized by domestic violence and wish to take legal action, you should contact a family lawyer. An experienced family law attorney can advise you on what protection your state’s law gives you. The attorney can also assist you with obtaining a domestic violence protection order.